Tiger force annihilated near Mullaitivu civilian safe zone
Several senior ‘commanders’ among over 400 killed in 72 hrs

The army yesterday brought the entire area outside the civilian safety zone under its control following three days of fighting in the Puthukudirippu east.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Island that since Friday (April 3), the army had recovered bodies of 420 LTTE cadres. But the actual number of dead could be very much higher than the number of bodies recovered, he said. Although the army hadn’t been positively able to identify bodies, several senior LTTE cadres including Theepan, Ruben, Nagesh, Gadaphi, Vidusha, Durga and Kamalini were believed to among those killed over the past 48 hours.

Responding to our queries, the Brigadier said that the army hadn’t crossed into the civilian safety zone as yet.

The 58 and 53 Divisions commanded by Brigadiers, Shavendra Silva and Kamal Gunaratne and the Task Force VIII conducted the three-day offensive after encircling a large LTTE group. The army launched the offensive to clear the area on April 1.

LTTE’s intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman, Theepan and Bhanu are believed to have led LTTE fighting formations. Military sources based in Vavuniya said that Bhanu was believed to have sustained injuries during Saturday’s fighting.

The sources said that the three fighting formations had first divided the defenders to several smaller groups before launching the operation.

Among the arms and ammunition recovered were one 30 mm anti-aircraft gun, three 12.7 mm anti-aircraft guns, seven multi purpose machine guns [MPMG], three light machine guns [LMG], 43 T-56 assault rifles, six T-81 rifles, two 40 mm grenade launchers, four 5.56 mm weapons, three RPG launchers, 28 radio communication sets, one disposable RPG launcher and three improvised explosive devices [IED].

The army said that the 30 mm weapon could be the one frequently fired at SLAF jets and helicopter gunships carrying out sorties in the northern theatre of operations.

The 8 GR (Gajaba Regiment) troops had recovered one US made M16 rifle, one luxury jeep, an armour plated container, a van, and two motorbikes.

The 14 GR on Saturday created history when troops captured one 130 mm artillery piece in combat. They also captured four T-56 assault rifles, two claymore mines, 40 improvised bombs, 55 hand grenades, several radio communication sets, ammunition and explosive devices.

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